It's Our Future You Are Planning For: Getting Youth Involved in Planning

This blog post highlights resources available to help engage children and young adults in participatory planning processes.

3 minute read

February 24, 2016, 5:00 AM PST

By Jennifer Evans-Cowley @EvansCowley

City Kids

wrangler / Shutterstock

Young people live in and explore our cities. They have valuable insight into ways to make our future better. We must continue to explore tools that engage youth in planning.

The American Planning Association offers a guide for engaging youth in city planning. APA also has a website resource that shares a variety of tools for engaging with youth.

Universities have programs designed to engage youth in learning about city planning. Y-PLAN, sponsored by the Center for Cities + Schools at the University of California Berkeley, engages youth in urban planning and encourages them to create change in their community. The curriculum is aligned with school curriculum, allowing city planning to integrate into classes as diverse as government or physics. At Ohio State University, the City and Regional Planning Student Association has a Planners Day and a School Chair who is responsible for organizing sessions in local schools to engage students in learning about planning.

Youthful Cities is building a network of 15-29 year olds who want to engage in planning for their cities. The organization undertakes annual Urban Attitudes Surveys to understand what youth are thinking about and hosts an annual Youthful Cities Index that measures which cities are best for young people to live work and play in. New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles place in the top 10 globally.

UNESCO has a tool kit called Growing Up In Cities to help engage young people in improving their local environments.

The California Center for Civic Participation offers a handbook on involving youth in community planning.

The Center for Understanding the Built Environment offers a Box City toolkit and a variety of lesson plans for children of all ages. Lessons range from helping people think about scale to designing a park.

The National Building Museum regularly hosts summer programs in Washington, D.C. for youth to learn about city planning and allied fields.

Last summer I shared how students in Scotland are using Minecraft to plan for the redevelopment of their waterfront.

A few years ago, I was involved in engaging students in Harrison County, Mississippi in planning for their community. We developed a student newsletter we distributed and combined with an in class activity where students were able to create plans for the future of their community. We combined this with in-class activities where students had an aerial map of their community and were able to use scaled buildings to design their community.

There are also books to support learning around city planning. When I have gone into pre-schools I have used Planetizen's Where Things Are, From Near to Far. For older children, City Works: Exploring Your Community and The Works: Anatomy of a City are good choices.

Have you involved children in planning in your community? What lessons would you share with others? Share your example in the comments below.  

Jennifer Evans-Cowley

Jennifer Evans-Cowley, PhD, FAICP, is the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at th eUniversity of North Texas. Dr. Evans-Cowley regularly teaches courses to prepare candidates to take the AICP exam. In 2011, Planetizen named Cowley as one of the leading thinkers in planning and technology. Her research regularly appears in planning journals, she is the author of four Planning Advisory Service Reports for the American Planning Association, and regularly blogs for Planetizen.

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